When singer Shaina Shepherd was growing up in Tacoma, she savored the opportunity to watch her mom sing in church. It was there, belting on-stage with the choir, where her mother would “shine”—and where Shepherd learned what was possible for herself, too.
“I could see her be her true self,” she tells Audiofemme. “[It] got me thinking about who I wanted to be.”
Today, Shepherd’s the one on stage, drawing in joyful eyes. Since moving to Seattle in 2014, she has turned heads as the powerful lead vocalist in Seattle rock outfit, Bearaxe, in her own Shaina Shepherd Band, and most recently, as the solo performer of “Never Be Another You,” a cover of the soulful 2016 hit from Lee Fields & The Expressions.
Shepherd’s version of “Never Be Another You,” released November 18th, is the result of a collaboration between major Seattle businesses Nordstrom and Sub Pop, the work of community-minded nonprofits like Black Fret and Africatown Community Land Trust, and the talent of a cast of additional Seattle music greats. “Never Be Another You,” is featured prominently in Nordstrom’s 2021 “Closer to You” holiday campaign and will benefit the Seattle nonprofit Africatown Community Land Trust.
Doing community work that brings together and benefits Seattle musicians and beyond is not an uncommon for Shepherd. In fact, after she moved to Seattle and began to get noticed in Bearaxe, she also began to develop an in-person and live stream concert series called Artist’s Way to benefit the local music industry that had been so disrupted during the pandemic.
“It happened because [local musicians] needed a gig. Our gigs got cancelled because of the pandemic and we just ended up building our own concert. That project has kind of continued throughout the pandemic and grew and… it also gave me an opportunity to continue to work on my craft and become a better singer through the concept we were building,” she says.
Artist Way’s impact attracted the attention of heavyweights on the Seattle music scene, like Ben London, founder of Seattle’s Black Fret, a nonprofit dedicated to helping local musicians thrive and whom Shepherd had previously connected with during her time with Bearaxe.
“During the pandemic I ended up getting to work with Ben a little bit more and he’s always trying to build opportunities for artists and musicians to get work. He built an opportunity to commission a song for Nordstrom,” she says. “They saw, and were inspired by, what I was doing in my community and building programs and also the way I sing. So they built this all-star band of people who are Seattle music legends. We just got in the studio and recorded a song. And the song turned out really great. We all loved it. Then Megan Jasper at Sub Pop said… they would put it out.”
The lively and uplifting single, which Shepherd recorded at ExEx Studio and Avast Studios in Seattle, features a cast of Seattle music greats including guitarist Jeff Fielder (Mark Lanegan Band, Sera Cahoone), Michael Musburger on drums (Damien Jurado), Ty Bailie on keys (MudHoney), and mastering by Ed Brooks (Death Cab for Cutie). And, per Shepherd’s wishes, all proceeds earned from the sale and streaming of the single are going to to Africatown Community Land Trust (ACLT), a nonprofit based in Seattle’s Central District, which empowers and preserves the Black Diaspora community in the area through land ownership, development, and stewardship.
“I suggested Africatown because they have been, during this pandemic, during the protests over at CHOP, they have been really popping out to me and inspiring me to keep going, to keep moving. So I was like, my heart is telling me to get back to them and everyone agreed that they are awesome and doing great work,” explains Shepherd.
Shepherd will follow up “Never Be Another You,” with the release of her pre-recorded KEXP webcast on December 22. And, in 2022, Shepherd hopes to release a debut record with the Shaina Shepherd band, which formed after the shutdown.
“I want to put out a body of work that represents the times I’ve had through 2020. I have a whole bunch of tunes. When I was in the middle of the pandemic, I didn’t have anybody to play with. But I found these guys—James Squires, Dr. Quinn, and Nick Jessen. And you know… they’ve imbued themselves into the songs [I wrote by] myself in isolation.” says Shepherd. “So, shout out to my first band ever, and then shout out to Black Fret… and shout out to Sub Pop and Nordstrom for giving me the support that I needed to have some kind of impact. Seattle’s my hometown now!”
Follow Shaina Shepherd on Instagram for ongoing updates.